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Five Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents

3 Sep 2014 – 12:45 PM EDT

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“Where are her real parents?” is a question many adoptive parents are asked over and over by people who truly don’t understand how offensive the question is. My daughter came to me through adoption, but I’m real and I’m her parent. That means I’m her real parent. Here are some other comments and questions I’d be thrilled to never have to field again.

“Do you have any children of your own?”

This is another variation on the “real” issue. My daughter is my own child. Biology isn’t the only factor that makes a parent. I’ve even had more than one person – and a perfect stranger in one case – ask if we turned to adoption because we couldn’t have children of our “own.” This type of questioning is offensive and uncomfortable.

“You’re a saint for adopting!”

My husband and I wanted to be parents. We just chose to build our family in a slightly nontraditional way. That doesn’t make us any more or less special than any other parent.

“What a lucky child!”

Adoption is filled with loss and pain. A child has been removed from their biological mother – the whole world they knew up until that point. In my daughter’s case, abuse, neglect and instability were all involved. There’s nothing lucky about any of that.

“Was it very expensive to adopt?”

My daughter asked me how much she cost at dinner one night after hearing someone ask me about adoption expenses. Adoption costs vary greatly depending on the path taken, but it’s not appropriate to ask about, especially in front of the child. After all, you don’t ask other moms how much their labor and delivery cost.

“Does she have a lot of behavior problems?”

We adopted our daughter from the Florida care system and there’s a stigma that these children have significant emotional and behavior issues. Early childhood trauma certainly leaves significant scars, but it’s not my place to discuss my daughter’s mental health with the public. I never deny that older child adoption is challenging at times, but it’s so very worth it.

Most adoptive parents know you mean well with your questions. You’re interested in the different way we chose to build our family. However, it’s important to remember boundaries in conversation and to consider how your question or comment might sound to the other person.